How to migrate an EC2 instance from one AWS account to another

You might want to “copy and paste” an existing EC2 instance from once AWS account to another, to go from Development to Production if you used different accounts for example. Here’s a step by step guide.

One potential ‘gotcha’

If you created your existing EC2 instance from a community AMI (such as creating a WordPress instance from a Bitnami AMI) then you might have trouble doing this transfer, as some AMI’s require you to accept a terms and conditions, which can’t be done to my knowledge while going though this process of creating and copying your own AMI. You’ll run in to an un-passable alert when you try to launch an instance from the AMI in your new AWS account.

In this case, your only option is to create the new instance in your new AWS account in the same way you created the first one, by launching the new instance form the original community AMI, then bring bring over any files, databases, users etc by other means that are outside of this blog post.

Before you start (preferably a few hours before you need to make the switch-over)

  1. Update your existing DNS settings to have low TTL values, this will allow you to make changes to DNS records later on, which will kick in quickly as a result. If you are using Route53 for your DNS settings, set all of your TTL values to 60 seconds (1 minute).
  2. Write down the AWS account ID’s of both accounts for later use, mainly the ‘new’ AWS account. Available in the AWS “My Account” section.

The steps..

  • Log in to your existing/old AWS account and go to EC2. Select your existing EC2 instance. Click Actions, Image, Create Image and fill in the form with a name and description. If you have several different EC2 instances to copy over, then you’ll need to do this several times.
  • Go to the AMI’s section in the EC2 menu and you should see your new AMI. Select it and click Actions, Modify Image Permissions. Here you will need to enter the Account ID of your new AWS account to share the AMI.
  • Log out of the old AWS account and log in to the new AWS account and click on EC2, AMIs so you are in the same place as the last step, just in the newer account.
  • In the Filter/Search panel, The AMIs will default to showing “Owned by Me”. Change this to “Private Images” and the AMI(s) you created earlier will be visible.
  • You create a new EC2 instance from the AMI, select the AMI you want to use and click on Actions, then Launch.
  • You’ll need to go through several screens here related to picking the EC2 instance type, assign it to a VPC, Assign or create Public/Private keys, storage space and so on. At the end you’ll be able to Review and Launch.

At this point, you now have a new server, the same as your existing server, in another AWS account. If you want to direct traffic to this server, you’ll need to update your DNS records.

  • In your new AWS account, go to EC2 and you’ll see your new instance(s). Click on them and note the Public IP address, you’ll need this next.
  • If you are keeping your DNS settings in the old/existing AWS account, then log in to the old/existing AWS account, go to Route53 and update the A name record, add in IP address of the new Instance on your new AWS account.

If you are also moving the management of the domain name from the old Route53 account to your new Route53 account, then you’ll need to copy over all of the DNS records from old to new.

  • Log in to your old AWS account, go to Route53. Select the hosted zone you want to mange to view all of its DNS records. Zoom out a little with your browser using CTRL -/+ until all DNS records are visible.
  • Highlight them all and press Copy (CTRL + C). Paste these in to Notepad, Excel or Google Spreadsheets for safe keeping.
  • Log in to your new AWS account and go to Route53. Create a new hosted zone for the domain name and start to manually create the DNS records copied from your old account. You won’t need to create the SOA or NS dns records.
  • There is a way to Import the DNS records in a specific BIND format. You’ll need to get familiar with the AWS command line for this, which is outside this blog post.
  • Once you have your DNS records created, they should be the same as the old Route53 account for that domain name, except for the SOA and NS records. Go to the EC2 section and note the Public IP address of the new instance you created.
  • Update the A name record to change the IP address to your new IP address.
  • Finally, note the 4 Nameserver records in the NS record. If you registered your domain name somewhere else originally, such as or for example, you will need to log in to your control panel there and update the Nameservers from their own nameservers (probably 2 of them) to the 4 nameservers from your AWS account in the previous step.




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